An Unsettling Return
By now, if you’re of a certain age and a certain bent, you probably know Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County is back from a 25-year hiatus.
There’s a certain breathless joy circulating with these four little panels, and it’s a joy I’m not immune to – especially at the sight of our original protagonists, Milo and Opus, in their proper place among the dandelions.
However, I’m also more than a little leery of Breathed’s ability to withstand the current echo chambers of American sensibilities.
“It must feel very empowering to be offended all the time,” he points out in a 2009 annotation to one of his most famous strips:
Why, that strip – which ran in 1981 – reads remarkably like my Facebook wall on a typical Monday morning. But nobody’s laughing at this point, and not just because They Hate Mondays.
In the Eighties, Breathed did the job of the best political cartoonists: he went after the target which presented itself, regardless of the side that target was on. From Bella Abzug to the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, he pointed his finger and readied his pen, releasing hot air from a word balloon.
I’m not sure we, as audiences, have the same tolerance for such things today. Breathed is keenly aware of, and apparently, unfazed by that: Consider this post, in which he states “I can’t wait to publish here… nicely out of reach of nervous newspaper editors, the PC humor police now rampant across the web… and ISIS.”
If I’m lucky, then I’m wrong, and Bloom County will either remain a bastion of the Vanishing American Liberal or will slide further into Herriman’s Coconino County and the dreamscapes where a boy and his tiger still roam.
But I expect, instead, to watch as a familiar online story repeats itself: a figure in entertainment known for his politics chooses the ‘wrong target.’ The internet shifts in outraged slumber, wakes, and turns upon him. Days pass of fingers being pointed, blame being shifted, and other news passing unnoticed. Said persona is diminished forever in the eyes of those who once held him high, and slowly (or quickly) descends into a single-minded attack dog, leashed by those he once opposed and trotted out quarterly to speak with Hannity or O’Reilly as their pet Former Liberal.
Again, my personal motto: I could be wrong.
But I believe Breathed already predicted that end, in that same interview:
Comments are closed.